AT LAST YEAR'S DEMOCRATIC National Convention, a congressional aide was shocked to find Betty Shabazz, the widow of Black Muslim leader Malcolm X and an icon of the civil rights movement, standing in line to gain entry instead of avoiding the wait by using a VIP ticket. "That tells you something about her," says close friend Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton, who adds, "It was not mandated that she get out and work every day as if her life depended on it. But that's what she did."
And more. For 32 years, Shabazz toiled tirelessly to preserve her late husband's legacy, his faith in the power of black self-sufficiency. Last week that work ended when, at 63, she died from burns suffered in a June 1 fire apparently set in her Yonkers, N.Y., apartment by her 12-year-old grandson. Shabazz, who grew up in a middle-class Methodist home in Detroit, said it was by emulating her husband's self-discipline that she had succeeded in singlehandedly raising her six daughters after Malcolm was gunned down in front of her on Feb. 21, 1965, in New York City's Audubon Ballroom. She went on to earn a doctorate in education administration and carve out a career as an educator at Medgar Evers College in Brooklyn, where she was known as Doctor Betty. "Our mother has made a transition—I like to think of it as that," says oldest daughter Attallah, 35. "She's boundless where she is."
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